The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. (Romans 13:12 – ESV)
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them. (Deuteronomy 30:19-20 – ESV)
The people of Israel are about to enter the land that had been promised to them after wandering 40 years in the desert. Moses, their intrepid leader throughout, is giving them his last exhortations before they proceeded to take the land of Canaan as their own. The people have a stark choice before them. If they reject their God and succumb to the idols of the nations they will supplant, they will in turn experience God’s rejection, and their time in the land will be short. If they choose life – choose to worship the true God and follow him only – they will know blessing, and they will dwell securely in the land. Their choice was clear, and their subsequent history proved God’s words true. Over generations, they mostly rejected their God and suffered the consequences.
As God’s people of the New Covenant, we too are called daily to choose life. It has struck me lately that we also are faced with clear choices, numerous times each day. We can choose our old ways of darkness, or we can put on the armor of light, as Paul teaches in Romans 13.
As I walk with God each day, I am more convinced that there are old paths (of our Old Nature) that we used to choose before we were believers (could not help choosing, really) that involve numbness, darkness, and death. They are well-worn paths: addictions, sins, and coping mechanisms that become for us deep, dark ruts – like graves with the ends kicked out! God has called us, as New Creations (2 Corinthians 5:17), to new paths of pain (not seeking to escape reality through addictions or sin), light, and life. These new paths are not so well-worn, at first, and it is easier to slip into our old, dark ways. But as we walk by the Spirit we’ll not gratify the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16). God’s power for us and in us is clear and brilliant! Jesus told us, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)
Let us rejoice in and walk in that freedom that Jesus bought for us. Today let’s choose Life!
“[T]he Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death.” (Exodus 19:10-12 – ESV)
In this prelude to the giving of the Ten Commandments, we are shown a clear picture of God’s holiness and otherness. While this way of relating to his chosen people seems unbelievably harsh, we must understand two things: God was teaching his people about His holiness. He was also protecting them.
As the passage moves into the giving of the law, particularly the Ten Commandments, it is clear that God wants his people to know how to relate to their God and how to relate to their neighbor. Jesus’ teaching in the New Testament that all the Law and Prophets are summed up in the dual great commands to love God and love neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40) summarizes this.
Many people compare a supposed capricious and wrathful God of the Old Testament to the New Testament God of love, mercy, and grace. Passages like this from Exodus can fuel this perception. While there are hard passages in the Old Testament (and in the New Testament, actually!) that can make us question, when we view the sweeping story of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, the reality of his mercy and grace is crystal clear. From the beginning – right after the Fall of men and women into sin and death – God established a rescue plan that culminated in the cross and the empty tomb.
We may balk against boundaries in our lives, but they are there to protect us. It is in staying behind God’s hard and holy boundaries that we honor him and honor others. It shows our love and fear of our God and our love and respect of others made in His image.
I’m grateful for the turn of the year. It gives me a chance to reflect on the 12 months past and to look forward with hope to the months to come. It is a God-given rear-view mirror and also an opportunity to clean the windshield for a clearer view ahead.
Some lessons from the year past:
I’m more stuck than I thought! Though my Faithful Father has continued to graciously and miraculously transform me in His Love, there are sinful ruts I continue to slip into and run in that dishonor Him and harm my relationships. These usually involve self indulgences I have allowed myself and found sources of “comfort” for many years – no, decades! Some of them, I am finding, were survival mechanisms from very young childhood. They served to help me survive hurts and fears then … but carried on into adulthood, they have proven damaging and death-dealing. The glorious truth I’ve learned this year is that those old, destructive habits can (and will!) be rejected and reprogrammed … through God’s Grace, in His Power, and by self discipline in place of self indulgence. I can wear some new, healthy, God-glorifying, and hopeful paths! I’m looking forward to that in this new year of Hope!
New paths are not always easy to stay in, however. It may take months and years of wearing them as deeply as the old paths were worn. Those old ruts that – in truth – became graves with the ends kicked out (!) are still easy to fall into. But by my Father’s Grace, and in His Power, I can climb out! He lovingly reaches down each time I stumble, and He pulls me out, places me on His good path, and cheers me on!
So, through being transformed by His Truth, through consistent prayer, through the encouragement of my Brothers and Sisters in Christ, and by making better choices each day, I’m looking forward to a Year of Change. 2019 is going to be glorious!
To God be the Glory!